Hi -- welcome to college. The next four years will be the most challenging years of your life, but also the most rewarding. You will have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows (seriously). You will laugh in ways you couldn't imagine and you will cry and nap in the most unexpected places. At the end of it all, It's going to be okay.
You're doing to miss your high school friends - that's normal... but don't let that stop you from branching out and making new friends. There will be times where you will eat alone... and it's okay. Honestly, it's more common than you think. Use that time to call your family or friends, or even watch Netflix.
Always make your bed. It's so nice coming home after a long day to a bed that is made. You'll thank me later.
Don't rush. Take it one day at a time. Enjoy the good and bad moments and everything in between. It goes by so fast and next thing you'll know you're standing there with your cap and gown and saying goodbye to your best friends.
Go to office hours and talk to your professors even before the exam nears. Just get to know them, they are actually pretty cool. Keep in touch with them once the class is over.
Utilize the TAs as well, the tutoring sessions, and everything in between. Your grades will thank you.
Speaking of grades... your grades don't define you. Yes, they are important. Yes, study hard...but don't sacrifice your mental or physical health for it. Find a study partner that is always down to study with you - whether it's at the dorm study lounges, your dorm room, the library or coffee shops. It makes studying more fun when you're with someone/people who care about learning and chasing big goals like you.
Don't compare yourself with other people. Seriously. You are amazing and capable of doing wonderful things. Just because you studied for two weeks on an exam that someone studied two days for, doesn't mean anything. What matters is the result. Sometimes you have to work harder or twice as hard just to be where everyone else is at and that's okay. Own it and watch yourself grow.
It's okay to take breaks and reward yourself with ice cream. Okay - don't eat ice cream after EVERY chemistry exam, but reward yourself now and then. Take a break, go to the gym, go out to eat with friends. You still have a life outside of your studies.
It's okay if you feel lonely. Just know you are not alone. God is always with you. You have your family and your friends whether they are near or far. You have a group of people that care and love you. It's okay if you feel alone in a school of 50,000+ people. It's normal.
Take a breath now and then and don't try so hard. Just be yourself and don't feel like you have to change who you are just to get along with people you meet. Not everyone you meet will be your friend or automatically "click" with and that's okay. Friends come and go. People you were close with your freshman year will become strangers and that's okay. Be grateful for the memories, pictures and videos. Just know that people grow apart sometimes and that's okay too. Those who want to stay in your life will try their best to stay in it and those who don't... well, that's a part of life.
Know what you deserve - whether that is in friendships or relationships. Never settle.
Surround yourself with people who will push you to be the best version of yourself. Surround yourself with those who will meet you halfway and try as much in the friendship as you do. Not all the "friends" you will make have your best intentions... be careful.
Find a Christian fellowship group that will welcome you, love you, and run with you to Jesus. It's refreshing having friends who have the same values and passion for Jesus as you do. They will pray for you and surround you with His love through the tough times. Cherish them and spend more time with them. Go out to eat with them now and then.
Join organizations that interest you - not just ones you feel like will look "good" on your resume.
Volunteer - not just because it will look good... but because you really get to know people when you wrap presents with them for over 2+ hours. Plus, volunteering is super rewarding and you need a break from school.
Manage your time wisely dude. Look at your schedule and be realistic. Are you really going to study after you come back from dinner with friends at 10 pm??
Use the school's resources - whether that's the gym, the rec. center, the writing center, etc. You're paying money to be there, you might as well use everything that's available to you.
Always bring an umbrella. Get a tiny one and just keep it in your backpack. The weather can be so unpredictable.
Call your parents and sister more often. Check in. Realize how much they have sacrificed for you. Tell them I love you more often. They are so proud of you no matter what. Remember that.
Also - don't stay up too late. Seriously, eye bags are not cute.
Lastly, but most importantly... just trust God and let Him be in control. I know that you have all these plans on how college will be like and how your life will be like... but honestly, it's so much easier letting Him take over. You will experience so much more freedom.
Grad student Nicole (who is still figuring things out)
Wait - there's more
Below are some more advice from my friends of all ages - those who have graduated and those who are still in college:
No I'm not going to start talking about how bumpin' Drake's song, "God's plan" is... although it is a bumpin' song. I'm talking about how God's plan for you may not be what you imagined and how sometimes your plan C may be His plan A. There's a quote that I've heard over and over again that says "If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plans". The older I get, the more this quote humors me.
I wish I could say I was one of those people who were just "chill" and just went "with the flow", but nope. I have always had a "plan" for my life, what I'm going to do, and how it's all going to go down. Ex: By this age, I'm going to be doing this and that and have this and that. After reading that previous sentence, I realize it seems silly and borderline control freak, but that's how I always was... until I started college.
First of all, I never imagined I would even be attending UT Austin considering my top choice of school was in San Antonio (which I was actually rejected from LOL). I didn't picture myself majoring in public health, ending up in love with it, and traveling to Honduras for a medical missions trip. Since college began, it's been day by day just learning to let go of what MY plans are for me and just trust in what God has for me. I experienced so much freedom when I gave up MY idea of my future and what I want and how it should play it. Sure, did 17 year old younger me plan on taking a gap year after graduating college and moving back home? Nope, but here I am...a little over a year after graduation-- content and grateful.
It took a while to write this post, because I had so much to process, pray, and reflect about. I had to learn to be comfortable with where I'm at in my life and where God has placed me instead of faking to be okay with it and pretending like everything is sunshine and rainbows. This is going to sound so cliché, but taking a gap year was really important to my personal and spiritual growth. It really opened my eyes to the world around me, made me realize what matters the most, and what life is like outside of academia. Most importantly, God re-centered my focus on who I am in Him. I am more than just my successes and my failures or everything in between, because I am a child of God.
This gap year had it's fair share of ups and downs, but I would not trade it for anything else. In this season of my life, God showed me the importance of rest. I feel like today's society emphasizes hustling and grinding 24/7 (which isn't bad because yes you do have to hustle and grind to get what you want), but rest or "taking a break" seems to be seen as counterproductive. It is almost as if you should always be hustling or be busy busy busy or stressed out because that's the norm now. Rest is almost seen as a bad thing...something that is frowned upon, that you almost feel bad for taking a break, but let's not forget that even God rested too. All the times I felt bad or less than because I was just home, working full-time and resting, I had to remind myself that there are seasons in life where it is time to rest. After all, I really did feel burnt out from being a super busy pre-med at UT and this season of rest was honestly refreshing.
As I stated before, throughout my time in college I fell more in love with public health and after working full-time at a primary care physician's office (separate blog post coming soon), I realized I also wanted to obtain an MPH (Master's of Public Health) along with an MD/DO. Whether that meant applying to a dual degree program or obtaining an MPH after becoming a physician, I knew deep down that I desired it. In the back of my head though, I always asked "how would it fit into my plan??" After all, med school is already another 4 years + residency. Am I really going to be in school forever? Why would I add another 2 years of school when I could just add 1 more during a dual degree program? But.. like I said, sometimes your plan C is God's plan A. With that said, I am excited to announce that I am going to be a graduate student at TAMUHSC pursuing an MPH in Health Promotion and Community Health!!
Although I wanted to go straight into medical school right after graduating college, God clearly had other plans for me and I am okay with that. I encourage myself with Ephesians 3:20 (MSG) - "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." I don't know about you, but that gets me excited because I have huge dreams for myself and I can't even imagine what God has in store for me. Although I don't always understand His plans, I trust Him enough to know that it's going to be amazing. So whatever plans or dreams you have for yourself, just know that God's plans for you are even greater.
On that note, Gig 'Em for now, but Hook 'Em forever!! Here's to adding three more letters after my name and following me on this crazy, non-traditional pre-med journey of mine.
The girl with upside down dimples
As many of you know (or if you don't), my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary back in March. Fun fact - my parents never actual had a wedding ceremony when they first got married so this is their first time with the whole shabang and I'm glad it turned out so great!! The months leading up to this wedding anniversary celebration have been crazy, which is why you haven't heard from me in a while. Planning a wedding is no joke y'all!! No worries though, we made it and I'm excited to share some of my favorite photos from the day!
My parents are my actual hashtag #relationshipgoals, but first let's break down what that actually means now. I often see that hashtag floating around, but what does it really mean? I feel like in today's society, it often reflects the "picture perfect" moments that are posted on social media. For example: a couple going on a cute date/vacation, someone's significant other buying their boo a nice gift or writing a super sweet post about them on social media, etc. Don't get me wrong, those things are nice and I went through a phase in my life where I thought that was my #relationshipgoals, but the more I spent time with my parents (especially since moving back home), I realized they are mine.
One of my favorite sounds in the world is hearing my parents laugh together. I don't know why, but it brings me so much joy that they are having a great time together after all these years. As someone who loves LOVE, I have taken a few relationship classes when I was in college (that's a whole post in itself LOL), but one thing I learned was that the divorce rate is about 50% now, which is so high if you think about it.... 1 in 2 marriages end. That's crazy to me, but every time I hear my parents laughing together, I thank God that my parents are still together and madly in love.
They are my #relationshipgoals because as their child, I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between and that's how I know that it's a REAL relationship. It's not just the "picture perfect" moments you see on social media, but seeing two imperfect people work together to make their marriage work. I would ask my parents how they're together after all this time and still so in love, and they both tell me the same thing - keep God as the center of your marriage.
I mean can you imagine moving your young family to a whole different country just because you felt God telling you that is what He planned for you and your family? I can only imagine the amount of trust my parents had with each other and with the Lord. I've watched them struggle financially when we first moved to the U.S. and I've watched them thrive throughout the years as well. Most importantly, throughout the years I've watched my parents continue to put God as the center of their marriage and how they continue to serve Him.
My parents have always served at the church and have always hosted bible studies at our house. I would watch them hurriedly make Filipino food together (pancit, lumpia and BBQ) for our church family. I've seen them worship, pray, cry, and most importantly - choose each other every day. Every spring, I watched as my dad spends hours digging holes for my mom's garden because he knows she loves gardening and I watched as my mom would cook my dad his favorite meals and buys him cartons of mangoes even though they are not in season (and a little more expensive than what we hoped LOL).
Thinking about my parents' marriage brings me great joy and I am so blessed to have loving parents who not only love each other so deeply, but love and continue to pursue the Lord together. I can't help but think of this verse when I think of my parents.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up".
So here's to 25 years and 25 more because "what God has joined together, let no one separate". -Mark 10:9
The girl with upside down dimples
One part of my new year's resolution is to learn how to cook better, preferably Filipino food. As I mentioned in my previous posts, my mom is a VERY good cook so I haven't really been able to practice much except in college (you can ask my roommates tho there were a lot of epic fails). Now that I am back home, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to learn how to cook from the best. ;) My first Filipino food that I will be sharing is Tinola.
According to Wikipedia, Tinola in Tagalog or Visayan, or la uya in Ilocano is a soup-based dish served as an appetizer or main entrée in the Philippines. Traditionally, this dish is cooked with chicken, wedges of green papaya, and leaves of the siling labuyo chili pepper in broth flavored with ginger, onions and fish sauce.
It is one of my favorite dishes to eat, but also to cook, because it's pretty simple!
prep time: 15 min
cook time: 45 min. - 1 hour (depending on your chicken)
Total time: 1 hour - 1 hour 15 min
As everyone knows, Valentine's day is coming up and it's the holiday of my people... the hopeless romantics. However, today I'm not going to give you advice on what to do on Valentine's day if you're single or what to get your boo. I'm just going to talk about loving yourself especially since the day of celebrating love is coming up. ;)
1 Corinthians 13 says:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
This verse has been read at weddings, and printed on posters and pamphlets so many times in the context between two people loving each other. This verse portrays God's perfect love for us and is a guide on how we should love others, but I believe it is also a guide on how God wants you to love yourself.
Love is patient
Loving yourself means being patient and forgiving yourself when you make mistakes. You are an imperfect person who has made and will continue to make mistakes. You owe it to yourself to forgive yourself from the mistakes you made in the past. You are not defined by your mistakes and the choices you made. When you ask the Lord for forgiveness of your sins...He forgives you. Boom. If the God of the universe is able to forgive you, why can't you forgive yourself? Stop replaying all of the mistakes you made and allowing shame to take over your life. You are forgiven and you are loved. Be patient with yourself the way God is patient with you.
love is kind
Loving yourself means being kind to yourself. Speak kindly to yourself. There are so many times I overhear people telling themselves that they are "stupid" or "dumb" when they make a mistake, or just bringing themselves down by speaking so negatively about themselves. It genuinely breaks my heart because God does not think that of you, so why should you say that about yourself? If you spoke to someone the way you speak to yourself sometimes, would you wanna be friends with you? It's definitely a good way to check the words you speak to yourself. After all, Proverbs 18:21 says," the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Choose carefully what you say to yourself. Choose life.
LOve does not envy
Lastly, loving yourself means "check yourself before you wreck yourself". Stop comparing yourself to other people. When you compare ourselves to others, you start to envy what they have and slowly but surely, start to become unhappy with yourself and your life, etc. Whether that means deleting social media for a bit or unfollowing people who you compare yourself to, you have to do it because you will just stir up envy in your heart and loving yourself means not being envious of others. Repeat after me: the Lord has AMAZING plans for my life. If he can do it for others, He can also do it for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Just because other people around you are blessed doesn't mean that you are not also going to be blessed. Loving yourself means learning how to be satisfied and content with what you have. Cultivate a heart of gratefulness and remove any envy lurking around.
I could go on and on about loving yourself in a society that is designed to make you want to hate yourself, but I'll stop there for now. I just wanted to remind you that God loves you sooooo deeply, so you should love yourself too, because after all... you are the child of the Most High King. Start loving yourself like you are one.
Happy Early Valentine's Day!
The girl with upside down dimples
I know it's almost the end of the first month of the year, but I wanted to reflect about how 2018 went and all the amazing things God did in my life! Also.. what a perfect way to post photos that didn't make the previous blog posts am I right??
God was sooo faithful to me during the month of January as I studied relentlessly for my MCAT (for those who don't know, it's the Medical College Admissions Test... nbd). The day we got back from our NYC trip in Dec. 2017 (post coming soon), I studied all throughout Christmas break. Fun fact: I was supposed to take my MCAT in August 2017, but postponed my exam because I had so much anxiety, stress, and honestly I didn't feel prepared. This time around I had so much peace studying and wasn't worried as much for it because I knew that it was all in God's hands and that He was guiding me through it all. To be honest, my score didn't change during the four practice tests, but I had faith that it was going to improve by the time of my exam.
I began my last semester of my senior year of college with excitement and nervous for the future as usual. What was I going to do during my gap year? Will I be able to raise my GPA up? Sooo many questions ran through my mind.
FEBRUARY - MARCH
February and March just involved lots of schoolwork, bonding with friends, exploring and taking in Austin during my final semester! I started fundraising for the Honduras medical mission trip with CompassionLink in June. I was so excited to start fundraising because I wanted to test God in the aspect of finances. I saw Him provide for my friends during the missions trips and I was excited to see Him do it for me too! I created a GoFundMe, continuously posted on FB and even sold shirts through Fund the Nations!
The beginning of February, I started treatment for my acne, something I've struggled with since I was in 8th grade and trust me when they tell you it gets worse before it gets better. I remember during March how my skin was SO bad that I just faked a smile and wore my hair down, but I really had to summon up what God says about how He looks inside of a person's heart than what's on the outside (1 Samuel 16:7) because it was rough.
I received my MCAT score in February and it improved by 9 points y'all. Our MCAT teachers told us it normally goes up on average by 6-7 points from your practice tests, but I was sooo shocked when I checked my score that I was literally moved to tears. I remember receiving my MCAT score during Physiology discussion and I couldn't focus after I saw it. God is soo faithful and I really believed He helped me throughout that exam because without His help, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have improved by that much, seriously.
April I took my senior pics and the reality of graduation was becoming closer as I counted down the days of when I was finally down with my undergraduate career!! I took my senior pictures around campus and Austin which made it even more real and exciting, but sooo scary at the time.
I ran the Longhorn 5k with my sister and my cousin (even though we signed up for the 10k and stood in the wrong area). God really gave me the strength to finish that because let's be real.. I didn't prepare for it as well as I should have. Maybe it was a blessing that we ended up running with the 5k anyway?? Hahah.
April involved lasts and first of everything... last small group, last round of exams and first time going to Round Rock donuts!
I also had the privilege of attending the Adolescent Health Initiative Youth Conference with the clinic I volunteered/interned for!! That was such a blessing from the Lord because you had to apply and had to be chosen. I was soo excited to go and had a chance to not only attend, but also present with People's Community Clinic adolescent team along with the Adolescent Health Initiative Teen Advisory Council. I had a chance to explore Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan which was beautiful (& cold).
This was a crazy month. Truly. Throughout the semester, I watched God continue to provide over and over again for me as I fundraised for my trip. With His provision, I was able to raise over $1,200 for my trip!!! Like I said, God is so faithful and such a giving God. I felt so grateful and so loved by those around me especially those who donated and prayed for me to help make my Honduras trip possible.
May involved lots of banquets and end-of-the-year celebrations as I said goodbye to some of my best friends and organizations I have spent much of my time involved in college.
Obviously May involved GRADUATION!!!! Graduating from UT was definitely one of the top favorite moments of the year and of my life so far. It was just such an exciting and happy moment. I was surrounded by my friends and my family and it was just an amazing time because we were able to celebrate my accomplishments during the past four years.
JUNe - JULY
These past two months in 2018 involved lots of traveling! From Honduras to the Philippines, I was blessed enough to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world and meet some beautiful people with it. I had a chance to see God move in Honduras and how it opened my eyes to how He can use someone like me to serve His people and all I had to do was say yes. In the Philippines, I had an amazing time with my family and was able to reunite with my old friends! God really opened my eyes during that time to how much He loves me and how He loves everyone from all tongues, nations, and tribes and how it is so easy to feel His presence wherever you are in the world.
August - September
August and September wasn't as eventful as the past couple of months to be honest. I officially moved back home and was adjusting to life post-college. I had a job lined up that turned out wasn't really what I was looking for, so I was on the job hunt. I was worried that I wasn't going to find anything, but I knew I just had to trust Him to open doors for me whatever it looked like. Since I was mostly home and job hunting during these two months, I ended up going to the gym habitually and even attempted to cook for the fam.
God really taught me the beauty of friendships as I learned how to juggle making new friends and cultivating my old friendships. I cured my baby fever since I started volunteering at my church's nursery and kids church. They are all so precious, I can't deal. Living back at home has really opened my eyes to how much I missed my family and how I truly appreciate my parents. At 17, I was so ready to get out of the house and be independent, but after four years, it was so nice to just be able to spend time with them and help in any way I can.
October - November - December
In October, I received a job interview to become a front office assistant at PCP's private clinic so I have been working there since! I am learning so much and I was so grateful that God opened this door to me because I am definitely looking at healthcare and medicine in a new perspective than I was before. These past couple of months have just been a season of waiting for me. Just waiting on God and trusting whatever His plans are for me next. I'm not a patient person, so it has been a challenge, but He is sooo patient and so good. After all, I'd rather feel like I'm a hot mess and have Him in my life guiding me than having it "all together" and not feeling His presence at all.
Overall, 2018 was such an amazing year for me that I was kind of worried of what 2019 will be like. Then I laughed and thought.. "Why should I worry if I have God on my side?" This coming year will have ups and downs, but that's with any new year. All I know is... I'm super excited for what God will do in my life and those around me in 2019.